Kevan Hall is the CEO of Global Integration which offers training in remote and mobile working within its wider portfolio of consultancy and training designed to make complex organzations faster, more efficient, less expensive to run and more satisfying to work in. Here he offers a salutary warning to those considering implementing newer ways of working for ‘green’ reasons, urging them to ensure that staff are ready for the change.
Thanks to Siemens, today #greencity has been making it’s mark by ‘trending’ on Twitter.
And, admirably, people are talking about sustainable cities. The upside is that people start discussing good, practical things like recycling and carbon offsets, and, of course, the realities are complex and financially hard to incentivize.
One of the most difficult areas is home working: firstly, working out whether it’s truly green, and secondly the financial practicalities: to what extent are companies going to pay for staff to adapt their living spaces to accommodate the equipment from PCs to filing cabinets.
There’s an expression in English (for those reading English as a second language), ‘The elephant in the room’: the taboo that people are afraid to discuss – in this case because home working is often discussed as a right or unquestionably green and ‘good’ which sometimes prevents sensible debate and discussion.
The reality is that working from home isn’t easy. I’m not referring to the distractions of TV and using the Dyson instead of working. There’s enough bad television on during the day to ensure that the first isn’t a problem, and the appeal of the vacuum cleaner is strictly limited, and realistically, how many people live in a mansion large enough to merit a whole day vacuuming?
The real problems are more likely to be trust, visibility and finding the right work-life balance – whilst many will adopt home working to allow flexibility for child care, sports pursuits and the like, the reality is that there is no turning off from work. It’s impossible to ‘leave it in the office’ because the office is right there.
Don’t misunderstand me – working from home can be very rewarding. Simply put, there are issues that need to be thought through carefully, and a new set of skills to be adopted when home working – or even working from a remote office – is put in place.
So much of our communication is based on what we see – nothing to do with the words we say, but our posture, voice tone, what our faces look like when we say those words. These valuable clues go missing when we can’t see the person we’re working with.
The principles are the same as those for people working in international teams (where an added complexity is linguistic and cultural). So whether you lead or work within in a remote team, you have to overcome barriers of distance, and lack of time, whilst maintaining communication through technology.
In reality, home working’s not for everyone, but making sure that that staff are trained to cope should be an essential part of implementation. When implementing ’virtual teams’ through home working to improve their green credentials, organizations must consider carefully the implications for staff if it’s the move is to have a positive impact on more than just the environment.